Click, Click, Bang in Vampire

It seems to me that as I enjoy this week of vacation, I must blog a bit. Tonight I shall submit a few words (to be honest, it will be mainly numbers) on Firearms in Vampire 20th.

At the moment, this information pertains to my Chicago by Night (set in the early 90’s) but it may spread to any other V20 games I do in the future. I’ll be using a number of resources for this post, but mainly I will be drawing from the Vampire the 20th and World of Darkness Combat!

V20 is the more recent book and it helped simply the material presented in WoD Combat (and other books). Nonetheless, I wanted to list a few more options for the sake of flavor, and to show that there was/is a decent variety of guns out there.

  • Light Revolvers
    • Common Stats: Damage 4, Range 12, Rate 3, Conceal in a Pocket
      • .38 Special
      • Dan Wesson Model 15 .357
      • S&W Model 19
  • Heavy Revolvers
    • Common Stats: Damage 6, Range 25, Rate 4, Conceal in a Jacket
      • Colt .45 Peacekeeper
      • Desert Eagle/Long Colt .44
      • Ruger Redhawk .44
      • S&W .44
  • Automatic Light Pistols
    • Common Stats: Damage 4, Range 25, Rate 4, Conceal in a Pocket
      • Beretta 9mm
      • Colt Challenger .22
      • Detonics 9
      • Glock17 9mm
      • SIG-Sauer P220
      • Walther PPK .380
  • Automatic Heavy Pistols
    • Common Stats: Damage 5, Range 25, Rate 4, Conceal in a Jacket
      • Automag .50
      • Browning Hi-Power 9mm
      • Colt 1911 .45
      • IMI Desert Eagle .44
  • Manual Shotguns
    • Common Stats: Damage 8, Range 20, Rate varies, Conceal in a Trenchcoat
      • Double Barrel, Rate 2
      • Sawnoff Double Barrel, Range 10, Rate 2
      • Single Barrel
      • Mossberg 500 Pump, Rate 2
      • Remington 870 Pump, Rate 2
  • Automatic Shotguns
    • Common Stats: Damage 8, Range 20, Rate 3, Conceal in a Trenchcoat
      • Browning Auto-5
      • Franchi SPAS-12
      • High Standard Model 10
  • Rifles
    • Common Stats: Damage varies, Range varies, Rate 3, No Concealment
      • Others, Damage 8, Range 200
      • Sniper Rifle, Damage 8, Range 500
  • Machine Guns & Assault Rifles
    • Common Stats: Damage Varies, Range Varies, Rate 3, Conceal Varies
      • AK-47, Damage 7, Range 150, Rate 3, Conceal Trenchcoat
      • Beretta PM12S, Damage 4, Range 20, Rate 3, Conceal Trenchcoat
      • H&K94, Damage 4, Range 20, Rate 3, Conceal Jacket
      • H&K MP5, Damage 6, Range 35, Rate 5, Conceal Jacket
      • Micro-UZI, Damage 4, Range 10, Rate 3, Conceal Pocket
      • M16, Damage 7, Range 150, Rate 3, Conceal Trenchcoat
      • MAC 10, Damage 4, Range 20, Rate 3, Conceal Jacket
      • UZI, Damage 4, Range 20, Rate 5, Conceal Jacket

Celerity RAW

It’s worse than we thought! Celerity got expensive!

Celerity

Not all vampires are slow, meticulous creatures. When needed, some vampires can move fast — really fast. Celerity allows Assamites, Brujah, and Toreadors to move with astonishing swiftness, becoming practically a blur. The Assamites use their speed in conjunction with stealth to strike quickly and viciously from the shadows before they are noticed. Brujah, on the other hand, simply like the edge that the power gives them against overwhelming odds. The Toreador are more inclined to use Celerity to provide an air of unnatural grace to live performances or for an extra push
to complete a masterpiece on time, but they can be as quick to draw blood as any assassin or punk when angered.

System: Each point of Celerity adds one die to every Dexterity-related dice roll. In addition, the player can spend one blood point to take an extra action up to the number of dots he has in Celerity at the beginning of the relevant turn; this expenditure can go beyond her normal Generation maximum. Any dots used for extra actions, however, are no longer available for Dexterity-related rolls during that turn. These additional actions must be physical (e.g., the vampire cannot use a mental Discipline like Dominate multiple times in one turn), and extra actions occur at the end of the turn (the vampire’s regular action still takes place per her initiative roll).

Normally, a character without Celerity must divide their dice if she wants to take multiple actions in a single turn, as per p. 248. A character using Celerity performs his extra actions (including full movement) without penalty, gaining a full dice pool for each separate
action. Extra actions gained through Celerity may not in turn be split into multiple actions, however. – Page 142, V20

My take away: Celerity allows you to add extra dice to your Dexterity, or extra actions if you expend blood. The extra actions must be declared in advance, just like any other multiple actions, they may not be split into multiple actions on their own (see Multiple Actions), and each additional action must be a physical action. Also, each point of Celerity used for multiple actions requires the expenditure of One Blood per action, per turn of combat. This usage of blood does not count toward a Vampires’ normal generational limit on blood pool usage per turn.

You may ask:

  • So if I want to use two Celerity for two additional actions, how much does it cost me in blood? Two blood per turn you wish to use those actions.
  • Also when do I need to declare Celerity use? You need to declare during the deceleration phase in initiative, after everyone has declared their ‘normal’ actions.

What we misunderstood: We’ve been continuing to mix up the many versions of how Celerity has worked over the years, mainly focused on the amount of blood and the rate at which it must be spent. The wording on the V20 book could have been a little clearer, but I’ve checked a few reputable sources after rereading this today, and the ‘new’ cost of 1BP per Celerity Dot per turn is the widely accepted interpretation.

Vampire Hunting/Feeding

Tonight I’m tackling something I meant to bring up last week. As I have mainly run Sabbat games for Vampire, the Players have been less concerned with some of the rules around hunting and feeding. As there is a lot to refer to, I’m going to paraphrase the highlights and cite where you can read the whole text.

Let’s get to it!

Earning Blood Pool – Pg 269-270 Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition

  • Vampires replenish blood pool by taking it from others
  • You can contract diseases through taking blood, this results in you becoming a carrier (as opposed to being infected/affected by the disease).
  • 2 Blood Points is ‘safe’ to take out of a healthy mortal. Taking all a vessel’s blood will kill it. Mortals regain 1 BP a day if they are well fed and rested.
  • A vampire may take up to three blood points from a given vessel in a turn.
  • Once the Kindred breaks her vessel’s skin with her fangs, that vessel no longer resists the vampire (if he did in the first place).
  • Indeed, the ecstasy caused by the vampire’s bite is called the Kiss, and it engenders as much exquisite, subtly painful pleasure in vampires as it does in mortals.
  • Exceptionally strong-willed mortals (9+ Willpower) may continue to resist, but even these vessels eventually succumb to the pleasure.
  • While Kindred find the Kiss pleasurable, they may resist it more readily than mortals can. Any Kindred, regardless of Willpower, may make a Self-Control/Instincts roll (difficulty 8) to avoid succumbing to the Kiss. This enables vampiric victims of diablerie (p. 293) to have a chance at fighting back.
  • Animal blood is not as nourishing or appetizing, though it can be drunk for sustenance.
  • Blood that has been stored in bottles, blood bags, etc, is never as satisfying as fresh blood. Imagine the differences in taste between a day old can of beer or soft drinks that has been sitting in the sun, as opposed to one fresh from the fridge.
  • Elders have vast blood pools.

Hunting – Pg 259-260 Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition

  • It is in the nature of a Vampire to hunt.
  • There are several ways to hunt for your prey.
    • Seduction
      • Appearance + Subterfuge
    • Chasing
      • Stamina + Athletics
    • Stalking
      • Wits + Streetwise
    • Others
      • Describe the method and the ST can assign some relevant abilities.
  • The area you hunt in determines the Difficulty that you roll against.
    • Slum / Bar Scene …4
    • The Projects / Skid Row …5
    • Downtown Business or Warehouse District …6
    • The Burbs’ …7
    • Heavily Patrolled Area …8
  • Successes on the roll means that you’ve found ONE prey. Of course you can ingest as much blood as you wish, but keep in mind the Masquerade!
  • Failure on the roll means you haven’t found any suitable prey, and a botch results in something very bad (like a Masquerade breech).
  • ” If the character catches prey, but currently has fewer blood points in her body than [7 minus Self-Control or Instincts], the character is considered to be hungry and a frenzy check (p. 298) is necessary — Self-Control to
    see if the character frenzies, or Instincts to see if the character can control her frenzy while feeding. If the player fails this roll, the character  continues to gorge on the vessel until she is completely sated (at full blood pool), the victim dies from blood loss, or she somehow manages to regain control of herself.”
  • The backgrounds: Fame and Domain reduce hunting difficulty by one point per dot (this stacks to a min difficulty of 3), whereas Herd gives you an extra dice per dot.

So, in situations where characters need to refill nearly their whole blood pools in a short order, we will likely move toward this system. When it’s a quick “top up” during downtime, we’ll likely just skip it.

 

Sunday RAW – Vampire Oversights

Intro

This week is a little different, as I’m only posting one rule that we’ve been using incorrectly, and the others are just rules/options that not all Players are necessarily aware of them.

The Incorrect Rule – Initiative

This stage organizes the turn and is when you declare your character’s action. Various actions are possible — anything from leaping behind a wall to shouting a warning. You must declare what your character does, in as much detail as the Storyteller requires.
Everyone, player and Storyteller character alike, rolls one die and adds it to their initiative rating (Dexterity + Wits); the character with the highest result acts first, with the remaining characters acting in decreasing order of result. (Storytellers looking for a slightly faster or more predictable system can choose to use Dexterity + Wits + 6 for each character’s initiative, forgoing
the die roll.) If two characters get the same total, the one with the higher initiative rating goes first. If initiative ratings are also the same, the two characters act simultaneously. Wound penalties subtract directly from a character’s initiative rating, while Celerity dots that aren’t being used for extra actions add to it (see Celerity, p. 142).
Although you declare your character’s action now (including stating that your character delays her action to see what someone else does), you wait until
the attack stage to implement that action. At this time, you must also state if any multiple actions will be performed, if Disciplines will be activated, and/or if Willpower points will be spent. Characters declare in reverse order of initiative, thus giving faster characters the opportunity to react to slower characters’ actions.
All of your character’s actions are staged at her rank in the order of initiative. There are three exceptions to this rule: The first is if your character delays her action, in which case her maneuvers happen when she finally takes action. Your character may act at any time after her designated order in the initiative, even to interrupt another, slower character’s action. If two characters both delay their actions, and both finally act at the same time, the one with the higher initiative rating for the turn acts first.
The second breach of the initiative order occurs in the case of a defensive action (see “Aborting Actions” and “Defensive Maneuvers,” both on p. 274), which your character may perform at any time as long as she has an action left.
Finally, all additional actions that turn (including actions gained through Celerity) occur at the end of the turn. If two or more characters take multiple actions, the actions occur in order of initiative rating. An exception is made for defensive multiple actions, such as multiple dodges, which happen when they need to happen in order to avert attack. – V20th Anniversary Edition, Pg 271

My take away: All Players roll Initiative  and then declare what they want to do in the round (including extra actions). For the sake of simplicity, you declare in the order of your Initiative score/result. This means that faster results declare first, or you can delay your declaration of action until any lower point on the Initiative order. Extra actions that result from splitting dice pools, or from Celerity occur at the end of the declaration (and turn). You can attempt to change your action and Abort to a defensive maneuver during your action (see Aborting Actions later on)

You may ask: So, if I am playing a fast character with multiple actions, who is in a fight, how do I avoid being hit? Playing it safe, I would say that you delay your declaration for as long as you can, to find out what the other combatants are doing. You then use your primary action to Dodge/Block/Parry the most serious attacks that you know are coming. Then follow up with attacks for your remaining ‘extra’ actions. Keep in mind, you can always try to abort to a defense maneuver (discussed later). Alternatively, you could be ballsy and attempt to use your main action to seriously wound your opponent in an attempt to outright kill them, or apply a serious wound penalty to them.

What we misunderstood: Holy shit, we’ve been using the rules incorrectly for eons. Basically, this explains why being fast and having a bucket full of Celerity matters in a fight. Combat declaration is now a serious case of Game Theory.

Raising Attributes with Blood

A player may spend one blood point to increase a single Physical Attribute (Strength, Dexterity, Stamina) by one dot for the duration of the scene. The player must announce at the beginning of the turn that he is doing this. A player may spend as many blood points on increasing Physical Attributes as the vampire may use in a turn (based upon Generation), but may only freely increase these Traits up to one higher than their generational maximum (i.e., a Tenth-Generation vampire may increase Traits to a maximum of 6). With effort, a character may increase a Physical Attribute to above this limit, but each dot above the limit lasts for only three turns after the character stops spending blood. This enables vampires to perform truly amazing physical feats, such as throwing cars, moving preternaturally quickly, and withstanding blows that would fell trees.

Note: No character may increase Physical Attributes above 10. – V20th Anniversary Edition, Pg 268

Willpower to Ignore Wound Penalties

By spending a Willpower point, wound penalties can be ignored for one turn. This allows a character to override pain and injury in order to take one last-ditch action. However, an incapacitated or torpored character may not spend Willpower in this manner. – V20th Anniversary Edition, Pg 267

Multiple Actions

Occasionally, a player will want her character to perform more than one action in a turn. For example, a character may be trying to search through a notebook to find a password while creeping stealthily through a hallway, or might be trying to sidestep an incoming attack while firing a pistol into her assailant’s gut. In such situations, the player can attempt actions normally, though all actions become more difficult as the character’s attention is split among them.
The player declares the total number of actions he wishes his character to attempt and determines which of those dice pools is the smallest. He may then allocate that number dice among the actions as he sees fit.

At the Storyteller’s discretion, certain action combinations that are wildly disparate may incur a difficulty increase (see below) on top of the split dice pool limitations. Composing a stirring poem while showering an enemy with a hail of bullets is a task not lightly undertaken. As well, at the Storyteller’s discretion, splitting dice pools to a certain degree may well just be plain impossible.
Vampires with the Discipline of Celerity (p. 142) may take multiple actions without subtracting dice from their dice pools. These extra actions may not themselves be divided into multiple actions.  – V20th Anniversary Edition, Pg 248

Aborting Actions

Aborting Actions: You can abandon your character’s declared action in favor of a defensive action as long as your character hasn’t acted in the turn. Actions that can take the place of a previously declared action include block, dodge, and parry. A successful Willpower roll versus difficulty 6 (or the expenditure of a Willpower point) is required for a character to abort
an action and perform a defensive one instead. When spending Willpower for an abort maneuver, a character may declare the Willpower expenditure at the time of the abort. A Willpower roll to abort is considered a reflexive action. (See “Defensive Maneuvers,” below, for descriptions of block, dodge, and parry.) – V20th Anniversary Edition, Pg 271

Sunday RAW – Vampire

With today’s Rules as Written (RAW), I’m tackling Aggravated damage in Vampire (Modern and Dark Ages). We re-read the rules on it at last night’s session due to some PvP, and we were all surprised.

Aggravated Damage

DARK AGES – Aggravated: Aggravated damage is a damage type specific to Cainites and other supernatural creatures. Mortals treat aggravated wounds just like lethal wounds. Aggravated damage reflects those deadly banes to vampiric existence such as the sun, fire, and the teeth and claws of other vampires and lupines. This damage may only be soaked with a vampire’s Fortitude dots. A  single level of aggravated damage requires a full day’s rest and five blood points. The vampire may spend these five over any number of days, but the wound will not heal until the fifth is spent. He may spend five additional blood points to heal additional levels while he slumbers. A Cainite with a health track full of aggravated damage suffers Final Death. – Dark Ages: Vampire, pg 345

MODERN – Certain attacks are anathema to the undead. Fire and the rays of the sun inflict terrible wounds on the undead, as can the teeth and claws of other vampires (and werewolves or other supernatural creatures).
As mentioned, each level of aggravated damage should be marked with an “*” on the Health chart. Aggravated damage may not be soaked except with the Discipline of Fortitude. Moreover, aggravated damage is far more difficult to heal. A level of aggravated damage may be healed only with a full day of rest and the expenditure
of five blood points (though a vampire may, at the end of the full day’s rest, cure additional aggravated health levels by spending an additional five blood points and one Willpower point per extra aggravated health level to be healed). Worst of all, a vampire who loses his last health level due to aggravated damage meets Final
Death — his eternal life ends at last, and he goes to whatever awaits him beyond the grave. Mortals may ignore sunlight, but still take damage from fire, fangs, and claws. Aggravated damage to mortals
is treated as lethal wounds instead. – V20, pg 285

My take away: Aside from the subtext of “Aggravated Damage is very bad news!” warning, the system seems simple. The rule is pretty clear, Fortitude is the only way to soak Aggravated Damage, body armor does not help. You can heal Aggravated damage with a full day of rest and the expenditure of 5 blood. You can also spend more blood to heal more aggravated damage while you sleep in the Dark Ages. I’d define a full day of rest as, an interrupted day of vampire sleep (dawn until dusk). To heal the extra damage in a Modern game (such as my Chicago by Night), you also need to expend a point of Willpower per point of additional Aggravated damage that you wish to heal.

You may ask: Can I heal the damage while I’m awake if I have enough blood? The answer to this is, No, you need to rest to heal this, and each point requires 5  blood be spent (and Willpower in a Modern game, for any damage beyond the first point).

What we misunderstood: Pretty much everything. We’ve been running with “5 blood and 5 nights of time to heal one point of Aggravated Damage.” in Dark Ages and Modern. With this new understanding, it is fairly clear that someone with a large (and full) blood pool, could heal multiple points of Aggravated Damage in the course of one night/day’s rest (in the Dark Ages). This is in stark contrast to a young vampire with a smaller blood pool of 10 points (as an example). At most that 10 Blood Pool vampire could heal one point of Aggravated Damage on the night they took the wound(s). This new understanding, also reduces the level of crippling that a character suffers over a longer running story (as Aggravated damage could take them out of action for weeks at a time). Of course in the Modern ages, the addition of needing Willpower to also heal the damage will level the playing field a little.

 

 

 

 

A tardy Sunday afternoon RAW

I’m continuing from last weeks’ RAW, though I’m a little tardy.

Stealth

Stealth. Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard. – PHB page 177

My take away: I need to read the rules more frequently (as you’ll see with Hiding after this). Stealth is the act of moving about in a sneaky fashion. If you are wondering what that is, imagine a Ninja moving around a room or trying to follow a guard on his rounds.

  • Certain types of armor add disadvantage to your Stealth roll. – PHB pg 145
  • Stealth also requires you to move at half speed, unless specifically stated otherwise by another rule. – PHB pg 182
  • You can not Stealth in the open. – PHB pg 182

You may ask: Okay so I use Stealth to hide from the guards, right?

What we misunderstood: Stealth is the act of being sneaky while moving, but it’s not Hiding which is an action (see below). You can move while Stealthy, but generally not while Hidden.

Hiding

When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.
You can’t hide from a creature that can see you, and if you make noise (such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase), you give away your position. An invisible creature can’t be seen, so it can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, however, and it still has to stay quiet.
In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the Dungeon Master might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack before you are seen.

Passive Perception. When you hide, there’s a chance someone will notice you even if they aren’t searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the DM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score, which equals 10 + the creature’s Wisdom modifier, as well as any other bonuses or penalties. If the creature has advantage, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5.

For example, if a 1st-level character (with a proficiency bonus o f +2) has a Wisdom of 15 (a +2 modifier) and proficiency in Perception, he or she has a passive Wisdom (Perception) of 14.
What Can You See? One of the main factors in determining whether you can find a hidden creature or object is how well you can see in an area, which might be lightly or heavily obscured, as explained in chapter 8. – PHB page 177

My take away: I really need to read the rules more frequently. I’ve made the comment in the past that Hiding is not like “World of Warcraft’s stealth”, and I was more correct than I realized.

You may ask: WTF, I thought you always read the rules?

What we misunderstood: Nearly everything. First off: you can’t normally move while Hiding. Second, if the enemy can see you, Hiding fails (so you can’t just hide in the middle of an empty room). Excessive noise breaks your hiding (I’d say nothing above a whisper in most cases). During combat everyone is on guard/aware so the likelihood of being able to Hide repeatedly during an average combat encounter is low. Invisibility and the Halfling ability to hide behind it’s allies screws with all of this.

Sunday Afternoon RAW

RAW? What the hell is that you may be asking! RAW stands for “Rules As Written” which is some jargon that I noticed on the Reddit D&D forums. This afternoon I’m taking some time to clarify some of the RAW on common things that come up in our games. I’ll be upfront and say, at times I don’t use RAW. The rules make sense most of the time, but not in every scenario or encounter. When that is the case, I modify them as needed. that being said, we’ve been using some misunderstood rules and holdout rules from past editions.

Typically Difficulty Classes

-PHB page 174

 

 

My take away: I’ve always wondered what a DC 20 was like in real life. Luckily I found the following online and I like the examples that it gives. It makes it pretty clear as to how hard a given DC is:

  • Trivial (DC 0) A task that is so easy that isn’t worth a check. An adventurer can almost always succeed automatically.
  • Very Easy (DC 5) Requires a minimum level of competence or a bit of luck to accomplish.
  • Easy (DC 10) Requires a minimum level of competence or a bit of luck to accomplish.
  • Medium (DC 15) Requires a bit more competence to accomplish. Can be completed more often than not by a character with both natural aptitude and specialized training.
  • Hard (DC 20) Include anything beyond the capabilities of the average person without aid or exceptional talent. Even with a bit of training and skill you still need some luck to pull it off (or maybe some specialized training).
  • Very Hard (DC 25) Achievable only by especially talented individuals. Nobody else should even bother trying.
  • Nearly Impossible (DC 30) Achievable only by the most trained, experienced, and talented individuals, and they probably still need help to pull it off.
  • Impossible (DC 35) An epic feat on which legendary tales are based on. The named masters of a skill come from acts such as these.
  • Godly (DC 40) Can’t be done without assistance unless you’re basically a demigod.

You may ask: So what have we been doing incorrectly? Really, we haven’t been doing anything incorrectly per say. It’s just understanding how hard a DC is.

What we misunderstood: Nothing.

Passive Checks

A passive check is a special kind of ability check that doesn’t involve any die rolls. Such a check can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly, such as searching for secret doors over and over again, or can be used when the DM wants to secretly determine whether the characters succeed at something without rolling dice, such as noticing a hidden monster.

Here’s how to determine a character’s total for a passive check:

10 + all modifiers that normally apply to the check

If the character has advantage on the check, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5. The game refers to a passive check total as a score. -PHB page 175

My take away: I use this frequently to speed up play/exploration.

You may ask: Since you never mention it, when ARE you using this DM? An example that comes to mind, when the party of trained PCs are on guard and are taking their time searching an occult library, they are likely to find anything that is hidden with a DC 20 or less.

What we misunderstood: Again, nothing was misunderstood, but a few players aren’t aware of this rule.

Climbing , Swimming , and Crawling

While climbing or swimming, each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot (2 extra feet in difficult terrain), unless a creature has a climbing or swimming  speed. At the DM’s option, climbing a slippery vertical surface or one with few handholds requires a successful Strength (Athletics) check. Similarly, gaining any distance in rough water might require a successful Strength (Athletics) check. – PHB page 182

 

My take away: Climbing anything that is ‘Medium (DC 15)’, ‘Easy (DC 10)’ or ‘Very Easy (DC 5)’ just costs you double movement, no roll is needed. Plus you don’t loose your action! If it’s a ‘Hard (DC 20)’ climb, it’s an Athletics check, and it may consume your action if it’s ‘Difficult (DC 25).

You may ask: So what does Rope do then? After digging around I can find no clear answer but, I will say that rope makes a climb easier. Effectively it reduces the difficulty by 5. So a ‘Hard (DC20)’ climb becomes a ‘Medium (DC 15)’, which doesn’t need a roll. As always, a friend can help you with their action, giving you advantage on a roll.

What we misunderstood: Our understanding of the rules suggested that every Rogue should put points in Strength so they could climb a wall reliably, also that a Rope gave advantage. This is incorrect.

Shoving A Creature

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.
The target of your shove must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.- PHB page 195

My take away: If you try to shove a creature as an attack, it’s a contested roll with your Athletics vs the targets Athletics or Acrobatics. If you win, you can knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away. Nothing is said about where you push it, if you opt to push it. I’ll be stating that you have disadvantage on any roll to push an enemy in any direction but directly away from yourself.

You may ask: Is this different than a grapple? Yup, as per PHB page 195.

What we misunderstood: We’ve been allowing the PCs to use shove to knock enemies prone AND to move them 5 feet away in a direction of your choice. Also, a shove is different than a grapple.

Grappling

When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.
The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check, a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or
Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition (see appendix A). The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).
Escaping a Grapple. A grappled creature can use its action to escape. To do so, it must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check.
Moving a Grappled Creature. When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you. – PHB page 195

My take away: This starts out similar to a shove, in that it’s a contested roll with your Athletics vs the targets Athletics or Acrobatics. If you win, you apply the grappled condition to the target. When you go and look up the grappled condition, you find that you reduce the targets’ speed to 0 and that you can move the target at double the cost to your movement.

You may ask: So the only thing that a grappled target can’t do is move of their own volition? That’s correct. The target of a grapple can still attack or react to anyone they can reach.

What we misunderstood: I think that the number of things that we misunderstood about grappling is too long to list. We’ve confused it with Shoving, we’ve used it to prohibit the grappled target from making any attacks, or to use them as a projectile…etc etc. At the end of the way, it looks like a good way to prevent the target from running away or moving, that’s it.

The Unpopular Call

Last week, in our Tuesday D&D game, I made an incredibly unpopular rules call.

D&D combat has never been ‘fast’, though 5E does a better job than 3.5/Pathfinder of speeding this up. I understand and expect that brand new players need a little more time, but experienced players can likely blow through their combat turn in 30 seconds. Nonetheless, combat has slowed down considerably over the past 15 months that we’ve had a 5E game going, and it’s been getting worse and worse. It’s gotten so bad that I sent a note out to our group on March 13th about speeding up combat.

Now I’ll talk about last Tuesday, with the full understanding that what happened isn’t unique to the player, nor specific to that session.

Where this impacts the game, is that while a player is mucking about with another web page or away from the computer, players are (at best) only half paying attention to the game. They may miss a clue that is mentioned in the game, or an opportunity to react to the action. In some cases, such as what I called last Tuesday, they outright miss their turn because they didn’t say that they would be away, and they aren’t at their PC and ready to act.

Why would I do this? Of course we’re all there to have fun, but we’re all setting aside some of our time to play this game together. We have a fairly limited amount of time each week to play, and all of my players make a concentrated effort to move the story forward. Yet it’s unfair to ask 5 out of 6 players and a DM to hold on repeatedly during a session (or for multiple sessions) because someone stepped away from their keyboard unannounced for a non emergency.

I’m fairly certain that this would have been a forgotten footnote had this not been at a critical in-game combat moment. The player who was unexpectedly AFK (Away from Keyboard) was in a situation where he could preemptively stop an attack on the group’s only Cleric. In fact, he placed his character there for that express reason (to stop any attacks). Unless that attack could be prevented, there was a high chance that the party would be wiped out in 3 rounds. My unpopular move was to say [PLAYER] isn’t at the keyboard when the opportunity is there for him to act, so he misses his turn/chance to react.

There were some immediate objections by other players to the call, followed by the players mostly coming to an agreement among themselves to announce when they are stepping away from the table. A few days later and I stand by my call. This wasn’t a case where someone was dealing with an emergency, a work call, crashed PC, or a sick child. A player stepped away from the table, and missed there turn. It’s not a huge deal, and it’s not something that I’m going to pause 6 other people for multiple times in a night.